Tamashii Robataya, Singapore

my dad whatsapped me very excitedly during his lunch hour last friday, telling me that he just had the most amazing truffle chawanmushi and (in my apparently standard words to describe anything i love) it was “sooooo gooood”. when he returned home that night, he was still enthusing about it over dinner and so it was decided that our family would go check the place out the very next day (yes, this means that my father went to the same restaurant to eat the exact same thing on 2 consecutive days; he likes it that much.).

so it was on a saturday afternoon that my family visited this relatively recently-opened japanese restaurant (it is about 3 months old) which is a stone’s throw away from my dad’s office, along north canal road. since its in the cbd, its really quiet on weekends and is actually a nice escape from the crowds at orchard road! we were 1 of just 2 groups of diners that day, but my dad says that its packed on weekdays so best to make a reservation if you’re planning on going down on a weekday.

Tamashii Robataya is on the 2nd floor of a rather nondescript building that houses a few other funky-looking joints, and is a traditional robatayaki (often shortened to robata) restaurant. for the uninitiated, robata is another kind of japanese dining (like shabu shabu, teppanyaki etc) where customers sit at a counter with a range of fresh produce displayed (eg mushrooms, corn, seafood, meats) and they pick what they want the chefs to skewer and grill over charcoal. when the food is ready, the freshly-grilled food is then served to you over the counter on a wooden oar, apparently to pay homage to the fishermen of Japan who served their fresh catch on wooden oars in the past.

20130727_132046 the counter at Tamashii Robataya

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsome of the food that can be selected for grilling

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freshly-grilled food served to you on wooden oars

my dad really enjoyed the set lunch that he had the day before, and so we decided to go with the set lunch menu which is also available on saturdays. (next time we are definitely going back to try the omakase/a-la-carte menu though!) they have a decent range of affordable set lunches available, and all are very value-for-money given that they come with a salad, 3 slices of salmon sashimi, rice, miso soup, dessert & coffee/tea. here is the set lunch menu:20130727_132342

all set lunches start with a typical japanese salad as appetiser – the greens were fresh and served with a delicious dressing that was light and refreshing. i would have preferred the salad to be a little more well-chilled though.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
salad that comes with the set lunch

we were all really impressed with the salmon sashimi. expecting the typical run-of-the-mill salmon sashimi that you can get anywhere (and hence not expecting very much), the sashimi far exceeded my expectations and we were all very pleased. the pieces were sliced quite thick (i prefer sashimi that way as it gives the fish some bite) and they were fatty, which i feel is what set it apart from the regular salmon sashimi that you can get in any chain restaurant or even supermarket. i might be wrong but they seemed to have a light yuzu-type seasoning on the top which was a very nice touch, and made it a very enjoyable start to the meal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
salmon sashimi

for the mains, we went with 3 orders of gyuniki teriyaki (beef) and 1 order of gindara teriyaki (cod). the beef was a clear winner – it was a generous serving that was grilled to perfection. the meat was extremely tender and juicy, and the sauce was simply put, finger lickin’ good 😉 i soon realised that my initial disappointment at the very simple (and some might even say unimpressive) presentation was completely unfounded once i sunk my teeth into the first piece of meat.

(sorry my pictures of the beef are really rather unflaterring 😦 but trust me, it was absolutely delicious!)
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gyuniku teriyaki that was cooked to perfection
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA gyuniki teriyaki with rice

the cod paled in comparison. my sister was sorely disappointed once it was served. the serving was much smaller than the beef and although it was extremely smooth and fresh and the sauce was as yummy as the beef’s, it was lacking the juiciness and natural sweetness that the beef had. i think its very safe to say that my sister will be ordering the beef the next time she returns for the set lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgindara teriyaki

the japanese rice that accompanied the grills was well-cooked, no sign of any clumpy or hard bits at all. as for the miso soup, we all really enjoyed it. it was full of ingredients unlike the msg-laden bowls of soup with a few pathetic pieces of seaweed (and tofu, if you’re lucky) that you often get with set meals. this miso soup had generous amounts of mushrooms and what i think was beancurd skin/tau pok, and it was a warm, tasty and satisfying accompaniment to the rice and grills.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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miso soup

besides the set lunch, we ordered a truffle chawanmushi each. how could we leave without having the one dish that my dad had enthused non-stop about the night before? each serving costs $8++ with any set lunch order. it was definitely money well spent in my opinion. the chawanmushi was one of the smoothest chawanmushis i have ever tasted!!! it was light, very very extremely smooth, and topped with not just truffle oil, but bits of truffle! the smell is amazing once you lift the cover of the chawanmushi pot 🙂 definitely one of the best chawanmushis i have ever had.20130727_134032
truffle chawanmushi

the set lunch also comes with dessert to end off the meal. i love how they have a range of desserts for you to choose from unlike some sets that come with a standard dessert of fruit/fixed flavour of ice cream. here at tamashii, you can choose from green tea, black sesame, yuzu or grape ice cream, matcha cheesecake, mochi and japanese jelly. gotta love that wide selection!!! i had my eye on matcha cheesecake from the start of lunch but unfortunately, they didn’t have it the day we were there. major sad face 😦 . so I went with black sesame ice cream instead, while my parents and sister went for the yuzu.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
black sesame & yuzu ice cream

we were really impressed when we learnt that all the ice cream is made in-house. the yuzu was a very refreshing sorbet-like palate cleanser, and had actual bits of orange peel inside which made it rather special. as for the black sesame ice cream, i forgot all about my disappointment with the lack of matcha cheesecake. it was delicious – smooth, creamy and extremely fragrant. i remember feeling very sad when i had the last bite of it; the one thing that could have made dessert better was… another scoop of ice cream? 😛

all in all, we were all extremely satisfied with our meal at Tamashii Robataya. in fact, my dad just went back a third time yesterday (he very happily informed me that the lady at the restaurant now recognises him); i think he needed to satisfy his constant craving for the truffle chawanmushi. the set lunches are indeed very good value for money. we’re thinking of trying their omakase menu one of these days! will definitely update this space when we do so 🙂

[UPDATE: omakase has been tried! read about it here]

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Tamashii Robataya

12 North Canal Road #02-01
Singapore 048825

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe, Singapore

my trip to Nana’s was a total spur-of-the-moment decision at 9pm on a sunday night. having just stuffed ourselves silly on crab bee hoon, we were craving something sweet to end off the night’s feasting and my cousin’s innocent suggestion of Nana’s and its matcha treats became something that was just too good to pass on. every time we discussed another dessert possibility in the car, the conversation would just be diverted back to Nana’s and that’s when we decided we had to make the drive to plaza singapura or it’d be on our minds for the next few days till we got to have it. (evidently, the love of food runs in my family ;))

located in the plaza singapura extension, Nana’s is a modern, open concept-type of cafe, surrounded by a few other japanese outlets like Hoshino Coffee, Tsukada Nojo (a place that serves collagen steamboat) etc. it is a popular chain in Japan with such a sizeable number of outlets that it is said to be the Starbucks of the land of sushi! however unlike Starbucks, the focus is not just on the drinks – Nana’s serves both proper food (by proper i mean typical japanese mains such as dons, udons & sushi rolls) and sweet treats like matcha drinks and a range of desserts.

we went all out with the matcha (what else would you do in a green tea cafe) and ordered a matcha latte, a matcha parfait and another matcha dessert to share. thank goodness the service was prompt and i didn’t have to wait in anticipation of matcha heaven for too long. the desserts appeared at our table looking almost identical to what was shown on the menu and i was so excited to dig in that i only have 1 picture (and its a picture of all the desserts together) from that night. sorry! here it is in all its green glory:

20130721_204748L to R: matcha latte ($7.00), matcha parfait ($11.80), matcha anmitsu ($8.80)

let’s start with the latte – it was thick and fragrant and the taste of the matcha was strong, but not overwhelmingly so. definitely one of the best matcha lattes i have had in singapore and beats Starbucks’ green tea offerings hands down in my opinion. i would come here on a rainy day for a warm matcha latte in a heartbeat! they have a range of other matcha drinks with toppings like mochi/red bean/ice cream – i imagine them all to be good especially when they seem to have a really good recipe for matcha-based drinks that are made using what appears to be good quality matcha stuff.

as for the matcha parfait, it was layers of yummy goodness. my favourite part about it was the cornflakes – despite being packed between dense layers of ice cream/red bean/cream/jelly/syrup, they retained their crispiness and added a very nice bite to the dessert. the mochis were also delightfully chewy, just as perfect mochis should be! the cup is huge and this dessert can definitely be shared.

the third item we ordered was the matcha anmitsu. the ingredients were largely very similar (minus the creamy milky layers in the parfait) to the parfait, except they were served in a bowl and drizzled with sauce (caramel, if i’m not wrong?). the azuki red bean paste was very smooth and satisfying, and the matcha ice cream was nice and creamy while the matcha jelly was yummy! but there was an addition of black beans which i could have done without. the black beans added saltiness to the dessert, probably an attempt at striking some kind of balance between sweet and savoury. it wasn’t bad at all; just a little odd in my opinion.

if i had to choose between the 2 desserts though (both are recommended in the menu), i would undoubtedly pick the parfait. there’s something very exciting about digging into a tall glass filled to the brim with layers of green tea goodness with a long spoon 😀 i’m already thinking of going back as i type this post!

we also ordered this drink (i can’t remember exactly what its called), and it was yummy since it came with mochis and a generous scoop of matcha ice cream!20130721_205241

for all matcha lovers out there, this is your mecca. for non-matcha lovers, this might just be the place that will make you jump on the bandwagon and convert you into someone who is greedy for green tea. i’m not sure how the main dishes at Nana’s are, but the desserts are certainly worth trying!

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe

68 Orchard Road
#03-80/82, Plaza Singapura

Menya Musashi, Singapore

ramen is all over singapore! there are way too many choices – so much so that everytime i feel like having a good bowl of ramen, i end up spending more time searching which shop i should go to and reading reviews than actually eating the bowl of noodles.

this time, the choice was menya musashi. i used to wonder how good it was when i saw the snaking queues outside the raffles city outlet and this time, it was the outlet at ion orchard that we headed to to see whether it was really worth the queue!

this shop is supposedly one of the most popular in tokyo, and their specialty is the tsukemen, where the ramen and soup are served separately and you are supposed to dip the noodles into the soup with each bite you take! wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous that night so i stuck to the ramen we are used to – a piping hot bowl of delicious noodles. their menu is pretty straightforward: they have a black, white and spicy soup base and for each soup base, there are 4 options, each differing based on the amount of toppings given.

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we ordered one bowl of black big tiger ramen and white big tiger ramen.
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(black on top, white at the bottom!)

what’s the difference between the white and black soup? the black soup is more garlic-y and also a little saltier – a heavier soup in general.

the “big tiger ramen” comes with the most toppings; i suppose its meant to be the “top of the range” bowl (at SGD16.90) – it comes with a mixture of shabu shabu pork and cha shu, half an egg, and a whole bunch of other garnishings. it was the most expensive on the menu but i would say it was very worth the money.20130327_183836
i have to say, they are EXTREMELY generous with the toppings, which is what i really liked.  every bit of noodles could be eaten with something (unlike some other bowls of ramen where its just a lot of noodles with a few measly slices of pork) and the cha shu was one of the best i’ve had with ramen! it was cooked to perfection – tender and very very tasty.as for the soup (which is key to any bowl of ramen), it was definitely not what i was expecting. it was so thick that it was almost like a gravy – i think i remember remarking that it reminded me of lor mee gravy. don’t get me wrong – it tasted good, but was just much thicker than i had imagined soup for ramen would ever be! because of the super generous amounts of toppings given and the extremely thick broth, it was a very filling and satisfying  bowl of noodles. definitely not something that everyone will like though, as its not the normal tonkotsu/shoyu soup that most of us are used to. however, another good thing about it was that i didn’t feel too thirsty after the meal, which means the tastiness is pretty natural and doesn’t come from too much msg!

out of sheer coincidence, the lady sitting next to me on the bus home had had her dinner at menya musashi as well. i sheepishly (or shamelessly?) admit that i eavesdropped on her phone conversation as she recounted to whoever was on the other end of the line how her shoe-shopping trip failed because apparently shoes that are both comfortable and nice-looking just do not exist, and how she did NOT like her ramen at menya. in her words, she said it was “super gao” (gao = thick in hokkien dialect, for the uninformed). she also complained that she didn’t get to drink coke because they only serve pepsi (heads-up for all coke lovers out there lol).

total bill: SGD39

who i would recommend this to: people looking for a different sort of ramen, either the dipping sort (if you are interested in trying something new) or one with an extremely thick soup. guaranteed to be a filling meal! i’m not sure how crowded it normally is as we went early and on a weekday but given the crowd i’ve seen at dinnertime at the raffles city outlet, i’d say its best to go early to beat the crowds. when we went at 630pm, there was no queue, but there was a steady stream of customers.

will i go back? i don’t really foresee myself going back in the near future unless i’m craving this sort of ramen. i think i still prefer the normal soup bases, though this is an interesting change. probably the kind of place i’d consider going to if i’m in orchard with no food ideas and am craving some ramen. i’d definitely say its worth trying at least once though!

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Menya Musashi
2 Orchard Turn
#B3-25 ION Orchard